A beacon on a rainy day in February, Farringdon's Coin Laundry pulls in the crowds with its cosy atmosphere, retro charm and 70s inspired dishes. Sitting on the corner of Exmouth Market, the venue's rustic decor helps to create a laid-back vibe inside. With the air of a traditional British boozer but the quirky character that you'd expect from a themed bar in London, we headed on down to see what else the space had to offer.
The Venue & Atmosphere
It's difficult to miss Coin Laundry, thanks to the bright white lights outside. The venue is split across two main floors, with the basement level looking like a bit of a student common room and being used mostly for live performances. As soon as you step in, you're hit by the high ceilings, exposed brick walls, simple wooden furniture and unfinished surfaces. Hearing about exposed brick walls might have you rolling your eyes these days, but Coin Laundry goes beyond the run-of-the-mill, throwing in broken white tiles and black painted bricks. Though this might not sound that important, it gives the venue edge and a rustic character without having to fill it with the clutter of random antiques, vintage furniture and harsh, fluorescent colours. Instead, the main dining area remains airy and unimposing.
The venue's obsession with the 70s and 80s really makes you smile; it's full of retro references like Whitney Houston plaques, David Bowie portraits and a vintage pinball machine. As you sit down at one of their tables, you can't can't help but enjoy how chilled and cheeky the entire venue is.
The Food & Drink
The retro theme extends to the food and drink menu, with grasshopper cocktails and chicken kievs having a weird legendary status here. To get the ball rolling, we headed straight for the cocktail menu. Split into Before Dinner, Dinner and After Dinner options, the list featured signature concoctions that have been twisted to fit with the 70s theme. We went for the passion fruit-heavy 70s pornstar (£9) and the whisky-based old fashioned. Both burst with flavour at each sip but were incredibly smooth and lingered nicely.
Onto the main event. We ordered the Dorset black garlic mushrooms (£6.50) and the Welsh classic of smoked Haddock rarebit (£7) as our starters. The flavoursome mushrooms were soft but contrasted really well with the breadcrumbs that covered the top. It was the haddock that really stood out. Covered in a thick cheese sauce, the toast held onto its crunch and the piping hot haddock was cooked to perfection, flaking delicately when touched. Despite being made up of intense, heavy tastes, each element of the dish balanced well with the other flavours and was in no way overpouring.
The main courses quickly followed and I was pleased to see my marinated bavette steak (£14) appear out of the kitchen. The meat was thinly sliced and was placed on a bed of grilled spring onion that had been doused in balsamic vinegar. The saltiness of the perfectly cooked beef complemented the bitter vinegar but sadly, the dish lost heat quickly, probably due to the thinly sliced meat; a warm plate would have made a big difference. My friend ordered the beer battered haddock (£12), which came with mushy peas, thin french fries and a potent tartare sauce. The piping hot fish again crumbled on the inside but came coated in a thick batter that offered a great crunch with each forkful. This homely dish slots easily into the restaurant's 70s living room atmosphere.
Having stuffed our faces with what seemed like our own weight in fries, we moved onto dessert. The Black Forrest trifle (£6) is the obvious choice for anyone with a sweet tooth, but I was really disappointed to find a confusing layer of gelatine that just gave the dish an odd texture as a whole. Thankfully, the cranberry and apple crumble pie (£5) saved the day and is a must-try in my book. A dish that can't help but remind you of your younger years, the sweetness of the hot fruit was calmed by a generous helping of rich custard. We left that plate as clean as a whistle.
Though a 70s dining experience might sound like too much for some, the team at Coin Laundry have taken a decade obsessed with the colour brown and added some much-needed colour to it. In truth, unlike most modern day spots, it's the venue's simplicity that really helps it to stand out. With dishes that roll back the clock and an uncanny ability to make you smirk, this spot is a real charmer in my book.